Diversity star Perri Kiely is warning young adults about the full consequences of money muling, after research found around two-fifths have been targeted by potentially suspect job adverts on social media.
The dancer and broadcaster has teamed up with NatWest in a new awareness campaign, which warns that people could end up in prison or unable to access everyday financial products.
With young people among those feeling the pinch this Christmas as the cost-of-living bites, more could be tempted by bogus “easy money” schemes.
Advertising created by the bank starring Kiely shows the realities that money mules could face, including depicting Kiely in prison.
Money mules enable criminals to move their profits from crimes around, by allowing the profits made by crimes to flow through their bank account, in return for a cut of the cash.
They could end up with a criminal record and a stint in prison for allowing their bank account to be used to launder the stolen cash.
A NatWest survey of 1,000 18 to 30-year-olds found 39% had been targeted by “quick money” job ads on social media, with three-quarters (74%) seeing an increase in these ads in the last two years.
Less than a third (32%) had heard the term money mule before.
More than half (57%) of 18 to 30-year-olds would be open to making extra cash by accepting money into their bank account and transferring it to someone else, according to the findings.
NatWest’s survey also found that a third (32%) of young people had received money from someone and transferred it to someone else or taken it out as cash and given it to someone else, without knowing its origin.
Alongside a spell in jail, the consequences of being convicted as a money mule could also include being unable to open a bank account or get a phone contract.
Kiely, 26, said: “Being part of this very honest job ad has taught me that, as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. We all need to be watchful for the signs and educate ourselves and everyone around us about how to avoid them.”
Kiely told the PA news agency that he himself had not been aware of what money muling was before getting involved in the campaign with NatWest.
He said: “I won’t lie, I didn’t have a clue what it actually was.”
He continued: “Essentially, it is money laundering… I wanted to jump at the opportunity to get involved and help spread awareness so people know what to look out for.”
Kiely told PA: “In this day and age, everything is social media.”
He said he had seen adverts offering the chance to earn some quick cash or have a particular lifestyle.
“Some of them might be legit, but now I’m knowing that some of them – and probably a lot of them – aren’t,” he added.
Kiely said he “100%” felt that rising living costs and the cost of Christmas may make people feel more tempted by promises of easy money.
He said: “Everyone knows times are really tough… if you don’t actually know the full consequences of what you’re doing, of course they’re going to jump at it.”
Kiely said the “beauty of social media” is that people can spread awareness to their family and friends of the dangers of money muling.
Stuart Skinner, a fraud and scam expert at NatWest said: “Now more than ever, people are increasingly mindful that their money and financial pressures are only likely to intensify during the festive season.
“We want to help keep your finances safe by highlighting the dangers that exist in our society via money muling and online scammers.
“We would urge all parents, friends and family to talk about this important issue with their loved ones to help safeguard against the serious risks and consequences that many young people are unaware of.”